Martin Schongauer, Young Woman Fanning a fire with a bird's wing, a drawing

Germany, AD 1469

The meaning of this curious drawing is unclear. The young woman who lifts the front of her dress and who fans the flames with a bird's wing may symbolically refer to 'fanning the flames of desire'. It is also unclear if the flower at upper left is connected with the rest of the drawing.

The outline of the figure is strong and simple. Shadows are indicated by short lines of parallel hatching and for deeper shadows, cross-hatching. The fire is drawn rapidly in long flowing lines as is the ground on which she stands. No known engraving exists of this subject. There are touches of pink and red wash. Schongauer's initials at the bottom of the sheet were possibly inscribed by the young Albrecht Dürer, who is known to have admired the older artist's work and to have possessed some of his drawings.

Martin Schongauer was the most important German painter and engraver of the fifteenth century, and was highly regarded by his contemporaries. He was influenced by Netherlandish painting of the period, particularly by the work of Rogier va der Weyden (about 1399-1464).

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More information


J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

J. Rowlands and G. Bartrum, Drawings by German artists in, 2 vols. (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)


Height: 183.000 mm
Width: 142.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1884-9-13-14


Gift of Mrs W. Sharpe


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